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Travel industry moots independent global security audit on SL

The travel industry on Monday strongly recommended an independent global security audit to boost confidence among would-be tourists to Sri Lanka, post-Easter Sunday extremist terror attacks.

“Sri Lanka has to get a security audit done by a reputed international company, to endorse and certify the positive security situation in the country in the aftermath of the 21 April incidents.

It will also be important at this moment to get the travel bans out of the way,” Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) President Harith Perera told journalists.

According to Perera, security audits have been very productive for destinations like Bali and Paris, which experienced similar incidents.

He believes this will also help to lift the adverse travel advisories, and give comfort to agents as well as business partners to invest money in Sri Lanka.

Perera also pointed out that the industry will fund said security audit if necessary.

Terror attacks in 3 churches and an equal number of five star hotels in the city killed over 250 people, including 44 tourists, and injured over 500.

Pointing out that tourists have become a soft target for terrorism around the world, SLAITO President Perera said ensuring national security was of paramount importance to all countries in the world at present.

Listing out a number of ISIS attacks around the world during the past couple of years, he said that there have been 139 ISIS related attacks, killing 6,400 people and injuring 9,300.

“You will be surprised to see some of the countries which had ISIS incidents. In Canada, there had been four incidents which killed 22 people, Egypt, eight incidents killed 320 people, France, 12 incidents killing 237 people, Germany, three incidents killing 12 people, Indonesia, three incidents killing 35 people, Turkey, eight incidents killing 290 people, and the US, seven incidents killing 72 people. Therefore, we must all understand that this terrorism is a menace to the entire world, and not just for Sri Lanka,” he stressed.

Perera said the whole philosophy of having security checks and going through various safety measures has become a norm now.

Citing India and the US as countries that have made significant investments on security infrastructure, Perera stressed it was high time that Sri Lanka too followed suit as proactive measure.

“In terms of global travellers, over 60% of them are Free Independent Travellers (FIT). Despite the unstable security, the global FITs will visit risky areas on their own. I think it is time that Sri Lanka needs to look at it very strongly, because even with the negative travel bans, we still get about 1,700 to 2000 tourists since the Easter Sunday deadly terror attacks,” he added.

He also underscored the need to have an ‘incidents-free’ environment in the country to bring back those tourists to Sri Lanka.

Given the current security threat, he said that even the largest tour operator in the world has cancelled all tours to Sri Lanka, including for winter.

“At the moment, it’s an indefinite stop to sales in Sri Lanka. Although the incident was only in a few places, and 95% of the country was not affected, right now the whole territory of Sri Lanka is shown as a risk area, hence tour operators won›t support any part of Sri Lanka. From July last year, international insurance is not covering any risk on tourists travelling to countries which have negative travel advisories,” he said.

From SLAITO’s perspective as a direct mediator between the destination and tour operator, he insisted on the need of a strong effort to convince them to relook at Sri Lanka. “Compliancy is the biggest enemy, we must collectively as an industry convince our own partners and tour operators abroad to restart their sales,” Perera added.